Over 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Much of the in-home caregiving is often done by their children. Caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease is emotionally and physically stressful. Here are a few ideas to help you manage your stress so you can give compassionate and loving care.

Plan Ahead

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, it’s important to learn what you can about the disease. This can help you be prepared if a new symptom or behavior arises. Look for Alzheimer’s support groups online or nearby. Being able to talk to someone who understands what you are going through can be very reassuring.

Also, you need to have a backup caregiver. This may sound impossible, but there may be times when you just can’t be there. Accidents, illnesses, or other emergent situations could make you unavailable or unable to give care. Thinking and making plans for these situations can help lessen the stress later.

Ask for Help

Often, friends and other family members want to help but don’t know how. Developing a support system can lessen your stress. Even if you don’t want to ask them to stay with your loved one, there are other things that people can do, such as: grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions from the pharmacy, lawn care or laundry.

Talk to your parent’s doctor about a home health care referral. If needed, a care assistant can help with bathing and grooming, and the nurse can monitor your loved one’s physical condition and coordinate with the doctor’s office. They can be a valuable resource for information and support.

Self-Care

It is important to take care of yourself. If you don’t have the energy to cook, eating well may be difficult. Small meals or snacks throughout the day may be easier than a full meal, or you can utilize your extended circle for casseroles or slow cooker meals.

Lack of adequate sleep will worsen your stress and make it difficult to cope with caregiving demands. If nighttime sleeping is difficult, try to get a nap during the day. This may require some teamwork, but it is very important. Also, try to take some time alone. Even if it’s just a soak in the tub or a cup of coffee outside, taking a bit of down time can help recharge your batteries.

You also need to take care of your emotional needs. Caregiving can provoke feelings of anger, guilt, frustration, and grief. These are completely normal responses, but you will need some way to deal with these emotions. Talking to a close friend, a member of the clergy, a therapist, or keeping a journal can be helpful to cope with your own feelings.

Caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s can be difficult and stressful, but it can also be extraordinarily rewarding. Try to laugh daily, enjoy the good times and, most of all, take care of the caregiver.